Does anyone know where I can find a lonely dirt cross roads? You know, the kind that the Devil hangs around looking for folks who want to sell their souls? They say that if you stand at the crossroads at midnight and have your guitar with you, the devil will come along and will trade instant guitar wizardry for your soul...in my book, that's a steal of a deal. Perhaps I can bring my harmonicas and make it a daily double although I seriously doubt my soul is worth that much. Still, in all, I'd like to give it a shot, you never know...never say never...if nothing else Id have another story to spin. Probably the best known crossroads is the one that Robert Johnson hung around at, where he made his deal...I mean the guy only cut a handful of tunes and he is revered more than ever nowadays, he's been dead now at least what, 70 years? THE crossroads is at the junction of highways 49 and 61 in Mississippi, they have a big sign there with lights and everything shining on it, I imagine I would have to que up and wait my turn, they probably sell t-shirts there and have a fucking 7-11 by now.
It was the summer after my senior year in high school, I was immersed in several styles of music. From the aforementioned British blues bands to "California" style country (Gram Parsons and the Grateful Dead's "Working Man's Dead" and their spin off "New Riders of the Purple Sage") to Hank Williams and beyond, my musical tastes were tinged with music rooted in the blues but I had'ent taken a drink from the well just yet. I started noticing credits on many cool songs I liked, names like McKinley Morganfield, Willie Dixon and Chester Burnett. The band "Hot Tuna" whom I loved, had further song writing credits with the likes of Reverend Gary Davis, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Blind Willie Johnson and others. This was the beginning of my schooling, a schooling that has lasted to this day.
The "Village Voice" of early August had a banner ad for an upcoming show at Carnegie Hall...headlining was a British blues band I really liked at the time, the "Climax Blues Band", they had just released an album recorded live at the Academy of Music in NY titled "FM Live"...I really loved it. Also on the bill were 3 other acts somewhat familiar in name only but really only a bi-line to me. "Also Appearing: T-Bone Walker, Big Mama Thornton, & Albert King". Hey I really wanted to see Climax and Im sure I would somewhat enjoy these other acts, was'ent sure about Big Mama, though, probably no where near Janis Joplin...what a fucking knucklehead I was...Id eat those words soon enough.
Big Mama Thornton hit the stage with a bang! "Hound Dog" is her main claim to fame, done much more soulfully than Elvis ever could. At this point I was almost comotose, I was aware of the music, really digging it but I could'ent really move, the damn bubble had me transfixed. With each beat of music is shook just a bit more violently and the tear in front began to look like a slow motion fire on cellophane...how it just melts away, but much slower. I could see her on stage, she was not quite as "big" as in her younger life but she was belting it out just the same. Her band chugged along in an orgiastic frenzy of blues induced raw sexual tension. My stomach was in knots and my bowels felt like they would explode, messing myself terribly, that dident happen thankfully, but the pressure was intense. Another intermission, I was able to get up and followed one of my friends into the mens room. For a bunch of high brows the aroma of pot was overwhelming, it really hit you as the seal of the door was broken and you stepped inside. I washed my face and smoked with at least 10 different people of all sorts. Some other freaks were by me but so were some bearded dudes from the beat generation as well as what appeared to be art and literary critics dressed in black tuxedos for Gods sake. I stumbled back upstairs and hit the bar they had at the landing. I blasted 2 shots of Wild Turkey, almost choked to death and mumbled incoherently back to my seat...folks seemed to part the way for me realizing that here was a thoroughly dangerous individual. In those days I dressed like an urban cowboy and the sight of me reeling with my wild shoulder length red hair looking like for all the world like a mentally deranged Wild Bill Hickock...well something had to give.
Intermission, the crowd started to file out as if the show was over, I followed suit. My friend said, "Hey, man, don't you wanna see Climax?" "Nah"